Strangers Raise $80K To Buy Wheelchair-Friendly Van For Brothers Who Are Paralyzed

“We can actually go places together.”

Two brothers who use wheelchairs just got a new kind of ride.

Thanks to an $80,000 donation from several groups of strangers, Matthew and Adam Chaffee, who are paralyzed, picked up a wheelchair-accessible minivan on Monday. The van is customized so they can drive it on their own, which gives the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based siblings a lot more independence.

The young men were paralyzed in two separate incidents but remained positive about their situations. A number of local people who heard about the brothers’ stories were touched by their outlook and began raising money for the van. 

Brothers Adam (left) and Mat Chaffee in their new van.
Brothers Adam (left) and Mat Chaffee in their new van.

“We’re really thankful,” Adam, 24, told local news station Fox 17.

“And they killed it on this one,” he added, referring to the 2016 Toyota Sienna SE, which is decked out with a ramp and a lowered floor and heightened ceiling to accommodate their chairs.

The vehicle also has hand controls that allow the brothers to drive without using their feet, reports the Kalamazoo Gazette, a local paper.

Matt tries out the ramp.
Matt tries out the ramp.

After the brothers, who are also best friends, picked up their new set of wheels from Clock Mobility, a Grand Rapids company that specializes in accessible vans, they spent their afternoon just driving around. Matt, 26, told the Kalamazoo Gazette that the two are happy that “we can actually go places together.”

The boys drive away!
The boys drive away!

It’s a joyful outcome for two men whose lives drastically changed just two years ago.

Matt was paralyzed when his spinal cord was severed during a motorcycle accident in November 2014. Adam cared for Matt in Kalamazoo until 2015, when a swimming accident left him paralyzed, too. A friend pushed Adam off a dock into a lake; Adam tried to do a flip into the shallow water and hit his head.

The brothers’ story was widely covered in their home state after Adam’s injury.

A couple in west Michigan, who want to be identified only as Michael and Christine, caught wind of the Chaffees’ story and decided they wanted to help, according to NBC local affiliate WOOD TV8. They soon found out they weren’t alone. The couple and some other community members, along with a local church, set up a page to collect funds. Together, they raised the $80,000 for the customized van.

Now, after so much generosity, the brothers plan to travel from Grand Rapids to Vanderbilt, Michigan, to visit their mom, whom they haven’t seen since Adam’s accident.

“What everybody has done and what everybody has given is just amazing,” Carol Chaffee, the brothers’ mother told “It is just wonderful what people have done for them.”



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